Nordic Music Central Viking Hero

JFDR (Iceland) – The Orchid (sample track from the album Museum)

JFDR is a project of Icelandic experimental singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Jófríður Ákadóttir

Iceland is a natural home to female musical experimentalists, several of whom we have featured (and Inki returns as well this week).

JFDR hasn’t just emerged from behind a rock. She has been making music for half her life and over the past 14 years, has released 12 records, including as a member of Pascal Pinon (with her twin sister) and Samaris, collaborated with artists such as Ólafur Arnalds, Damien Rice, and Penelope Trappes, scored the award-winning Icelandic film Backyard Village, and gained fans across the world – including Björk, who cites Ms Ákadóttir as an inspiration.

You don’t get many better CVs than that. But that degree of patronage can easily lead to introspection and anxiety about keeping up the goal tally.

Museum’ is her new album, of which she says it is one “about clearing and healing; like breathing fresh strong air through your old self,” adding that she was Inspired by the discovery of ideas lost to time after a period of creative stasis, “its nine songs capturing fleeting moments into a timeless monument.”

There is no mention of the pandemic in there but I suppose it played its part in ‘creative stasis.’ However she chooses to focus on having an “existential crisis” about her own work (see what I mean?), re-emerging from it only in late 2021 after delving into demos dating as far back as 2018 while purging old computer files upon which “I found a moment where something was happening,” she says, referencing moments in early 2022 when her partner encouraged her to follow buried creative impulses.

The album was written and completed in New York where she avoided “over thinking” it while working on it intensely.

It was a tough call selecting a sample track and I opted for the opener, ‘The Orchid’ mainly because it was a single and is probably the track her followers are most familiar with.

It would be both easy and lazy to compare JFDR to Enya but you can’t get away from the similarities – vocally, sonically and in the composition. But whereas Enya tended to go for the bigger, more recognisable and quick hitting melodies, JFDR is more subtle, creating her textures with multiple returns to the paint palette, mixing her colours with all the panache of The Joy of Painting’s Bob Ross at his easel.

Indeed this is the easiest review I’ve done for a while. If you’re familiar with Bob from his 30-minute TV shows (they were broadcast incessantly on BBC4 during the lockdowns) in which he painted extravagant and complicated landscapes from scratch in less than half an hour without ever ‘over thinking’ anything then you’ve encapsulated the musical version, JFDR, just like that.

Just as Bob added “happy little trees” when he felt like it, so does JFDR throw in happy little synths to add colour to the melody when the mood suits her.

JFDR feels like she’s just getting started even though she’s already had multiple careers as a musician. “This album is a step to somewhere,” she says, “I feel I’m right in the middle of a new body of work.”

Perhaps she might try a seascape next. Or a mystical mountain at dawn.

‘Museum’ is JFDR’s first album for the label Houndstooth, which is also home to experimentalists such as Katie Gateley and Aïsha Devi.

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